As the healthcare and pharma marketing world diversifies its media mix, there’s been a surprising beneficiary: digital audio platforms.

The Veeva Crossix 2022 Trends in Health Advertising Report examined data from 230 life science campaigns in the U.S. Its goal was to identify year-over-year behavior trends among consumers across some $6 billion worth of advertising investments in 2021.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the findings showed that media plans are diversifying and that pharma is embracing a different channel mix. Connected TV and streaming video were among the channels that saw increases in usage during 2021.

But the report’s biggest revelation was that the use of audio messaging has surged among healthcare brands. In 2021, 50% more campaigns included digital audio programming vis-a-vis 2020, with the growth particularly meaningful in women’s health and preventive medicine.

According to Asaf Evenhaim, CEO of Veeva Crossix, audio has emerged as a viable – and valuable – option for pharma marketers. He noted that the rate of new patient starts stemming from digital audio rose by 11% and that audio ads were 120% more effective than digital display ads.

“It’s an interesting observation that consumers are spending more time within these audio environments, as audio has compelling attributes for the industry,” he explained.

Evenhaim added that the trend is a novel one.

“Audio is an emerging channel that historically hasn’t been utilized so much by the industry,” he continued. “Consumer behavior is evolving and the industry is figuring out a compliant way of using the channel, as well as ways to measure it to make sure their investments are producing results.”

The revelation about audio’s impact comes as more and more pharma companies have embraced health- and science-focused podcasting to reach patient audiences.

Despite the channel’s recent gains, however, there remains plenty of opportunity for expansion. It’s worth putting the findings in perspective: Among all advertising impressions examined by the report, 80% were digital display, 9% were online video, 8% were streaming video and only 1% were audio.

“If you think about digital advertising, the vast majority of that historically has been display,” Evenhaim said. “Audio is coming on as a new, emerging channel for the industry and still has a lot of room to grow.”